Last June, Nathan Fillion mentioned over Twitter that he would be taking part in something called The Thrilling Adventure Hour, and within minutes, half-a-dozen writers and actors I admired had spread the word about Nathan’s appearance in what was described as ‘a live comedy show styled after old-timey radio.’ That I had to see, so I bought my ticket and went with a group of friends.
I’ve been hooked ever since.
Who knew that once a month at the Largo Theater in Hollywood, the Work Juice Players (sponsored by the fictitious WorkJuice Coffee and Patriot Brand Cigarettes) put on hilarious skits with some wonderful guest talent from fan-favorite television shows? Emulating old-time radio, they stand at microphones and read from scripts written by Messieurs Ben Acker and Ben Blacker – but don’t be fooled into thinking that the setup limits the actors’ performances. Their voice work is fantastic (as long as guests remember to speak into the mics), and the 30s & 40s conceit turns the Thrilling Adventure Hour from mere live theater to something unique and anti-German, and even gives me a sense of nostalgia for an era I’ve never been anywhere near.
From the Wild West (really, really far West) adventures of Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars (played by the ever-droll Mark Evan Jackson), to Beyond Belief, the suspenseful and slightly intoxicated tales of married mediums, Frank and Sadie Doyle (the incomparable Paget Brewster and Paul F. Tompkins), the insanely smart show has had me coming back month after month as long as I can afford it, even when Nathan Fillion isn’t a draw. (Though if he’s signed up, expect the usually sold-out show to sell out in record time.)
Saturday night’s performance marked the 6th anniversary of the show, so Sparks Nevada and the Doyles (Thrilling Adventure Hour staples), celebrated anniversaries of their own. Though the segments are serialized just like old radio programs, and regular attendees might get a few extra laughs at reoccurring gags, it’s not necessary to know what’s happened to get what’s happening. And in case you do want to catch up on shows you’ve missed, the Thrilling Adventure Hour has started to upload podcasts of the program, available on iTunes and off.
What I like best about this unique Los Angeles experience (besides the opportunity to play Spot-The-Star, both on stage and in the audience) is that the Work Juice Players feel like a family. The show is a product of love, and the fact that the actors are in it for the fun of it comes across visibly on stage. Because they love every minute of it, the audience does too.